The state must pay the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky more than $160,000 in attorneys’ fees because the legislature failed to enact new legislative district maps in a timely fashion, the group announced today.
U.S. District Court Judge William Bertelsman in late July ordered the payment in the joint civil suit filed against the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the State Board of Elections.
The suit, initiated by the ACLU and a group of voters, noted the state failed to enact new maps during the 2013 regular session of the General Assembly, and were using maps created in 2002 as a result of the 2000 census.
The lawsuit claimed that population growth in the state’s urban centers in the ensuing decade effectively diluted those voters’ power at the ballot box. And the state’s actions violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s “one person, one vote” mandate, said William Sharp, legal director for the ACLU of Kentucky.
The Kentucky House has adopted new boundaries for its 100 members, but not without some lawmaker grumbling.
The bill to redraw legislative boundaries passed the full house 83 to 17. Before the votes were cast, House Speaker Greg Stumbo told colleagues there was no intent to punish anyone or either political party.
“Everyone agreeing that it has to be done, it’s required, and this is a fair way to do it," said the Democratic House Speaker.
While several lawmakers argued these new boundaries are fairer than their earlier attempts, many still voiced concerns. Most came from individual lawmakers, upset over seeing their counties divided between several districts.
(From left) Rep. Ryan Quarles, R-Georgetown; Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington; Rep. Mike Harmon, R-Danville; and Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, discuss legislation prior to the start of the day's legislative session in the Kentucky House of Representatives.
A House committee in Frankfort passed the chamber's redistricting plan Tuesday on a 25-4 vote with the support of many Republicans. The lone Democrat who voted against the bill was Representative Jimmie Lee of Elizabethtown.
The proposed map splits Hardin County among six districts, with only Lee's district--the 25th--remaining entirely within Hardin County.
"With the other counties involved, someone that would seek the seat living in Hardin County in these various districts will never have enough votes in Hardin County to ever win an election," explains Lee. "Basically, this map has precluded the northern end of Hardin County from ever having someone who lives there serve as their representative."
The bill is expected to easily win approval from the full House on Wednesday.
The House map pairs eight incumbents, four Republicans and four Democrats, against each other in elections next year. It varies quite a bit from a 2012 House proposal that pitted nine incumbents against each other, eight of them Republicans. That plan was thrown out by the Kentucky Supreme Court.
A Warren County lawmaker says he's waiting until new legislative maps are drawn before he makes any decisions about his future.
Republican Representative Jim DeCesare could be placed in a tough spot when lawmakers pass a redistricting plan at the end of the special session that began Monday in Frankfort.
A Democratic proposal would put DeCesare in the same district as fellow House Republican C.B. Embry, Junior, of Morgantown. DeCesare tells WKU Public Radio that he's not ready to decide whether or not he would seek re-election under those circumstances.
"Once there's final passage on a piece of legislation, I'll look at it and see where I need to go from there,” said the Rockfield Republican.
Monday is day one of what Kentucky lawmakers hope will be a quick special legislative session devoted to creating new redistricting maps.
Both Republicans and Democrats have unveiled proposed maps, and lawmakers from both parties have said they believe an agreement can be reached by Friday.
The latest redistricting effort has dragged on over a year, with one set of maps being thrown out by the state supreme court in 2012. That's leading some to wonder if Kentucky should consider creating an independent, non-partisan committee that would be in charge of drawing new legislative maps every ten years.
Daviess County Democratic Representative Tommy Thompson told WKU Public Radio it's an idea he'd consider.
"I certainly would not be opposed to looking at the possibility of having an independent commission actually do the redistricting itself, and I'd be surprised if we didn't have some bills that came up when we go back to the regular session in January that propose that," said Rep. Thompson.
Edmonson County Republican Representative Michael Meredith has said he would also consider the creation of an independent redistricting commission. But he says he would want lawmakers to ultimately have an up-or-down vote on any maps such a commission produced.
House Democrats are scheduled to release a legislative redistricting plan on Friday, one day after Senate Republicans unveiled their proposal.
Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo called a press conference for 1 p.m. EDT at the Capitol to discuss the proposal, which is expected to be voted on in special session that begins on Monday. The last one Stumbo proposed would have pitted 11 House Republicans against each other.
On Thursday, Senate President Robert Stivers unveiled a proposed map for his chamber that would pit no incumbents against each other in upcoming elections.
Redistricting is undertaken every 10 years to account for population changes recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau. Kentucky had major population shifts between 2000 and 2010, requiring reconfiguration of legislative districts in both the House and Senate.
The Kentucky high court struck down lawmakers' initial redistricting plan last year, finding that the proposed districts weren't balanced by population and didn't comply with the federal and state "one person, one vote" mandate.
Kentucky House Republican leaders are offering a legislative redistricting plan that would force eight incumbents to run against each other next year.
The map unveiled Thursday by House GOP Leader Jeff Hoover affects four Republicans and four Democratic lawmakers.
Hoover told WKU Public Radio the GOP plan is very different from a plan put forth earlier this year by Democrats that had nine Republicans running against each other, but no Democrats.
"What we put forward was a much fairer plan that puts one pair of Democratic incumbents against each other, one pair of Republican incumbents against each other, and two mixed pairings where there is an incumbent Republican against an incumbent Democrat," explains Hoover.
Given population shifts in Kentucky over the past decade, Hoover says it's impossible to redraw legislative boundaries without pitting incumbents against each other.
A Bowling Green lawmaker says a legislative redistricting plan under consideration would not place three southern Kentucky GOP incumbents in the same district.
A plan put forth by House Democrats earlier this year would have placed Warren County's Jim DeCesare, Brownsville's Michael Meredith, and Morgantown's C.B. Embry Junior in one House district. But Democratic Representative Jody Richards told WKU Public Radio that such a plan is no longer being considered.
"Now, C.B. Embry and Jim DeCesare may well run together, but most of that district would be in Warren County," said Richards.
Kentucky lawmakers will meet in Frankfort next month for a special session to draw new legislative maps based on the latest U.S. Census data. Both Richards and Warren County Republican Senator Mike Wilson told WKU Public Radio they believe lawmakers can get a deal done over the course of five days--that's the quickest a special session can start and finish under state law.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear just announced a proclamation calling lawmakers back to Frankfort Aug. 19 for a special session dealing with legislative and judicial redistricting.
The Democratic-led House passed redistricting maps during this year's General Assembly, but they were voted down by Senate Republicans. Beshear has said he wants lawmakers to have an agreement in place before the start of the special session, so that it lasts the minimum of five days.
"Leaders in both chambers have indicated to me a willingness to utilize the same census numbers for legislative and judicial redistricting as were used for Congressional redistricting in 2012," Beshear said in a news release. "This will make all redistricting plans consistent and avoid having to address Congressional redistricting again. I have therefore not included Congressional redistricting on the agenda for the upcoming special session."